Petitioner was the Deputy Chief of Staff for Comptrollership, J6, of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Petitioner filed this Petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 to annul and set aside public respondent Resolution and Writ of Preliminary Attachment and to enjoin public respondents from further proceeding with any action relating to the enforcement of the assailed issuances.
Petitioner argues in this Petition that the Sandiganbayan is without jurisdiction over the “civil action” for forfeiture of unlawfully acquired properties under R.A. No. 1379, maintaining that such jurisdiction actually resides in the Regional Trial Courts as provided under Sec. 29 of the law, and that the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan in civil actions pertains only to separate actions for recovery of unlawfully acquired property against President Marcos, his family, and cronies as can be gleaned from Sec. 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended, and Executive Orders E.O. Nos. 1411 and 14-A.
Whether the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over a Civil Case of Forfeiture?
Yes, The Sandiganbayan is vested with jurisdiction over violations of R.A. No. 1379, entitled “An Act Declaring Forfeiture In Favor of the State Any Property Found to Have Been Unlawfully Acquired By Any Public Officer or Employee and Providing For the Proceedings Therefor.” It establishes that it does not enumerate any prohibited acts the commission of which would necessitate the imposition of a penalty. Instead, it provides the procedure for forfeiture to be followed in case a public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his lawful income and income from legitimately acquired property. Section 1256 of the law provides a penalty but it is only imposed upon the public officer or employee who transfers or conveys the unlawfully acquired property; it does not penalize the officer or employee for making the unlawful acquisition. In effect, as observed in Almeda, Sr. v. Perez, it imposes the penalty of forfeiture of the properties unlawfully acquired upon the respondent public officer or employee
It is logically congruent, therefore, that violations of R.A. No. 1379 are placed under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, even though the proceeding is civil in nature, since the forfeiture of the illegally acquired property amounts to a penalty. The soundness of this reasoning becomes even more obvious when we consider that the respondent in such forfeiture proceedings is a public officer or employee and the violation of R.A. No. 1379 was committed during the respondent officer or employee’s incumbency and in relation to his office. This is in line with the purpose behind the creation of the Sandiganbayan as an anti-graft court—to address the urgent problem of dishonesty in public service.